What kind of IP cameras do I use?

I tried out IP cameras from three vendors. I ended up settling on cameras from Axis Communications. The hardware is great, and so is the software. Here is my experience with two other vendors:

Vendor X’s camera looked great on paper, but I didn’t like it! These kinds of cameras have a web server on-board that you go to in order to configure camera parameters, motion detection, h264 encoding, etc. With brand X, I was never able to get the motion detection feature to work reliably. Also, playing around too much in the on-board website could result in crashing the camera and it would have to be power-cycled to restart it. Also, the brand X camera I tried got incredibly hot in continuous use in a cool environment. I put it in my garage so I worried about how hot it would get on a hot day. The video quality wasn’t great during the day, and was blurry at night when the IR illuminators were enabled. This camera’s h264 encoding uses the most bandwidth (and storage in the database) of all the cameras I have.  Finally, I’ve had it only a few months, and I think the image quality has degraded some over time even though it has been indoors (outdoors can be a more difficult environment because of the sun)

I tried Vendor Y’s cameras. I was really impressed with the hardware quality. The image quality is great and the camera itself is sturdy and well-designed. It is also pretty small which is great for home use. The price could not be beat. The web configuration site on the camera is well-designed and worked well. The only software issue I had was that I could not get the camera to upload video to a server when motion was detected (but I didn’t end up needing this feature) I wanted to like this camera, but it could not compare with the camera software features and product breadth (amount of camera product styles) of Axis Communications.

Once I tried out Axis cameras, I was kind of stuck on them. They have such good software, good hardware, and a wide range of (pricy) products. The built-in motion detection allows you to create many detection and exclusion windows in the scene. You can configure the minimum size of an object to be detected. You can ignore swaying objects or things that go by very quickly like bugs at night. The camera has dozens of options for things it can do when motion is detected such as upload videos to a file share or send emails. The option I ended up using was the option to hit a web site. I run a web server on the camera network, which records the motion event into a database, when the cameras access a URL. The camera has configurable https for security and you can generate a self-signed certificate on-the-fly or upload a real one.

Here is a diagram of what’s going on in the cameras as I’ve configured them:

Originally I was thinking “Wow, this camera does everything. I should have this set up in a few weeks.” But it turned out to take much longer before everything was working together… Stay tuned!

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